MARKET TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS
IN PACKAGING, EMAP, BRUSSELS 2001
Françoise Pardos, Pardos Marketing, February 2006
Why the success of plastics in packaging?
Plastics have many properties, often equivalent, or inferior, to
those of traditional packaging materials, but the combination of
these average properties generally gives a unique synergy. Plastics
are expected to be, and actually can be, both a flexible
glass and a transparent metal.
Plastics are light, generally lighter than other packaging materials.
Even when they are heavier, than wood, paper or board, their higher
mechanical strength allows using fewer plastics. Plastics are generally
less bulky than the materials they replaced, film versus paper and
board, plastic bottles versus glass bottles.
Plastics can be made into a great variety of package shapes, by
their main processes, bottle blow molding, extrusion of film and
sheet, thermoforming of thin wall containers, molding of containers
and closures, and many other processes of lesser quantitative importance.
Most plastics are good barriers to water and moisture, an obvious
advantage over paper and board that have to be treated. Barrier
plastics, materials and processes permit to greatly improve the
oxygen, gas and flavor barrier of the plastics they are associated
with, however never achieving the complete barrier provided by glass
and metal. Plastics can be most easily associated with traditional
materials, boosting the overall performances to fit almost all packaging
The major trend is the final replacement of traditional materials,
up to aluminum, steel (in closures and in cans), and glass, by the
irresistible push of plastics. More and more, plastics are
becoming the one and only packaging material.
Plastics must be able to comply with an extraordinary, and sometimes
contradictory, broad range of expectations: to be well adapted to
the contents, made with the greatest variety of shapes, designs,
colors, prints, to stay safe, non toxic, clean, economical, pleasant
to see, touch and even hear, resisting to extremes of temperature,
from sterilization, freezing, cooking, barrier to gases, water and
aromas, easy to open, to use, to close back, friendly to the environment,
and finally disposable without a second thought. All this
is expected from the new packaging materials, plastics.
These trends add up to ever more plastics packaging, but not necessarily
more tonnage and more money to the packaging suppliers. Plastics
packaging is increasingly an "invisible bubble", thin
and light. The most extraordinary package probably is the 300 grams
of stretch film, putting together a pallet of hundreds of kilos
and costing less than a dollar.
For emerging country markets, the continuing rise of plastics has
a major implication. The developing packaging industries immediately
adopt the latest solutions, as adapted to their needs. The intermediate
steps which the industrialized countries took in the last thirty
years will just not happen in emerging economies. Packaging solutions
are to be plastics, immediately.
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